Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Asabee, others appears in court

Stephen Asamoah Boateng, former Minister of Information and National Orientation, his wife Zulieka Jennifer Lorwia and six other public officers on Monday appeared before an Accra Fast Track High Court charged with conspiracy to defraud the state. Also in court was a non-legal entity firm, Supreme Procurement Agencies Limited (SPAL).The accused are alleged to have conspired to defraud the state of GH¢86,915.85 as a result of renovation works carried at the Ministerial Block of the Ministry during Mr Asamoah Boateng's tenure. The officials include Frank Agyekum, former Deputy Minister of Information and National Orientation, Dominic Aloysius Yaw Sampong, former Acting Chief Director, Ministry of Information and National Orientation, Kwabena Denkyira, former Director of Finance and Administration of the Ministry and Prosper Arku of SPAL. Yasmine Domua, an accomplice, was, however, not in court. The prosecution who substituted the old charge sheet with a new one, however, intimated that efforts are underway to get her in court. Whereas the old charge sheet had nine counts of charges, the new one had 14 counts with the number of accused increasing from six to nine, including a non-legal entity.Asamoah Boateng, Zulieka, Kofi, Agyekum, Sampong and Domua are jointly charged for contravening the provisions of the Public Procurement Act.Asamoah Boateng, Kofi, Agyekum, Sampong are also facing attempt to commit a criminal offence namely defrauding by false pretences. Kofi and Asamoah Boateng and Arku are additional being charged for forgery of official documents and possessing forged documents. Arku was additionally charged for uttering forged documents. They have pleaded not guilty before the court presided over by Mr. Justice Charles Quist amidst heavy security at the Supreme Court premises.The court has admitted them to bail in the sum of GH¢10,000 each with a surety each to reappear on August 27.The Court, however, asked Asamoah Boateng and his wife Zuleika to deposit their passports with the Courts' Registry adding that "the requirement of the passport would be reviewed after two months". On the issues concerning the passports, the court said it was mindful of the attempts made by Mr Asamoah Boateng and his wife to travel outside and the fact that they had been prevented by security agencies from travelling.In applying for bail, Nene A.0. Amegatcher, counsel for Asamoah Boateng and his wife, told the court that the state had breached Article 19 (2) (C.D, E) of the 1992 Constitution because they hade not been given ample time to respond to the charges.According to him they only saw substituted charges in court this morning adding that what was offered last Friday was different from the new ones.Nene Amegatcher pointed out that the offences levelled against them did not constitute those offences under which bail was refused. He therefore prayed the court to use its discretion in admitting them to lenient bail terms or bail terms based on self-cognizance in the case of former ministers who have been put before courts. Mr Yonni Kulendi, who represented four of the accused persons, expressed concern over the submission by the prosecution that all the accused persons should submit their passports to the court. He said apart from Agyekum, most of accused persons were retired civil servants who were very old and they would not abscond from the court's jurisdiction.He therefore prayed the court to frown on the prosecution's prayers to it to retain their passports.Mr. G.S.K. Babanawo, who represented Arku, said he was surprised that his client was only informed to appear before the court this morning and urged the court to admit him to bail to enable him to appear and prove his innocence.Chief State Attorney Mr. Anthony Gyambiby did not oppose the bail but said there should be enough security as part of the bail conditions. The case of the state was that somewhere in May 2008, Asamoah Boateng was appointed as Minister Information and National Orientation. On assumption of office, Asamoah Boateng, brought Kofi, a retired civil servant, who was then on contract at the Ministry of Tourism. The prosecution said Asamoah Boateng made Kofi the Director of Finance and Administration at the ministry over Denkyira who serve as his deputy.Not long thereafter, Asamoah Boateng held a management meeting during which he told senior officials of the Ministry of the need to suspend all investment activities already budgeted for 2008 in order to direct those funds for renovation works at the Ministerial Block. The renovation work included tiling of the offices. For the renovation works to commence, Asamoah Boateng brought Zuleika as the contractor in charge of the renovation works. The prosecution said investigations revealed that Zulieka was not qualified to take up the job adding that at that time, she was in charge of a boutique business known as Lady Zee Intimate and Body Shop which was managed by Yasmine.For the purpose of executing the work, Zuleika contracted her elder sister Irene Lowria Zakpa, a witness in the case, to borrow registered documents for her enterprise known as Plexifom Ventures, which was into interior decoration, import and exports, event and media organisation and landscaping, among other thingss. Zuleika thereafter e-mailed a letter, invoices and receipts to Jasmine to sign them and instructed her to send them to her husband (Asamoah Boateng) for processing.Asamoah Boateng through his secretary handed over the documents to Kofi for processing. Kofi, however, found out that documents were incomplete hence informed Asamoah Boateng.After two months, the prosecution said, Asamoah Boateng produced documents from Plexifom Ventures documents in addition to other documents to Kofi who in turn sent it Sampong, the Acting Chief Director, for processing.The prosecution said these took some time hence Asamoah Boateng became unhappy about the delay because he felt he was going to lose the investment vote as the year was about to end. Consequently, Kofi forged documents purporting to be minutes of the Tender Committee meeting purporting that the documents were the contract of Messers Plexifom Ventures with contract sum of GH¢86,915.85 whereas no meeting was held.The prosecution said renovation works had started and the contract was supervised by Yasmine, who purported to be the contractor fronting for Zuleika who knew nothing about the construction. After the renovations were completed, Sampong wrote a letter to the Ministry of Finance (MOF) requesting for payment to Plexifom Ventures. The prosecution said in connection with the same job, Agyekum wrote a similar letter to MOF to pay Messers Plexifom the contract sum when he knew no due process was followed.The money was released by MOF through the Controller and Accountant General Department and the fund was released to the Ministry of Information's local accounts.The head of accounts of MOI insisted that until the required documents were produced he was not going to release the GH¢86,915.15. As a result Boateng, Zuleika and Sampong summoned the acting head of accounts to Denkyira's office to prevail on him to effect payment but he failed to do so.The prosecution said a directive from the Office of the President asked all Ministries, Departments and Agencies not to pay for investments activities.As a result of that Kofi forged invoices and receipts of non-existent companies.According to prosecution, no consultant was engaged in respect of the job but Messers Plexifom obtained forged tender documents, Architecture/Engineering as well as Evaluation reports. Investigations further disclosed that Arku of SPAL instructed one Agbesi, an employee of the agency, to prepare the said documents to prove regularity and legitimacy.In May, Sampong wrote a letter for a special request for the payment of renovation knowing very well the transaction was embroiled with irregularity and fraud.The prosecution said but for the vigilance and firmness of the head of accounts section, MOI, the GH¢86,915.85 would have been paid. Prosecution said it would call six witnesses to make their case. A number of big wigs of the New Patriotic Party, including Mr Alan Kyeremateng, Mr Felix Owusu-Adjapong, Mrs Cecilia Abena Dapaah and Mr Akwasi Osei Adjei were at the court to support the accused persons. Also at the premises of the court were supporters who chanted war songs.

No comments: